One of our members, UKWildcatfanatic, sent me an email over the weekend remarking on the fact that UK had lead the nation in average attendance many times over the years with Syracuse being a close second.
But there is one stretch, from 1985-1995, when Syracuse was #1 and we were #2. Particularly interesting are the years 1988-1991, when the attendance at the Carrier Dome suddenly escalated from around 25,000 to over 29,000 average for that 4-year stretch. After 1991, attendance at Syracuse games began a gradual decline with Kentucky regaining the #1 spot in 1996, which it has relinquished only one year since -- 2004-2005.
Now, the Carrier Dome where Syracuse plays officially seats 10,000 more people that Rupp Arena. Many times big games have produced 30,000+ sellouts, but I have not been able to identify any particular reason why attendance at Syracuse games suddenly jumped by an average of about 4,000 per game.
Syracuse was good in the years 1988-91, but they have been better at other times, so I don't see that as a reason for such a 16% increase in fan attendance. UK has never had a fluctuation of similar magnitude, so it is very curious to me how this could have happened.
There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason as far as teams are concerned -- Syracuse had a national championship caliber team several times when it didn't win the crown. It just seems to defy logic.
About the only factors I haven't examined are the weather and changing demographics around the area, which are both too challenging for me to do. My favorite theory would be mild weather during that 3-year stretch, as I have been able to ascertain that weather around the Syracuse area is a significant factor in game attendance.
Anyone else got a theory?